A few weeks ago, I was reminiscing with a friend about text messaging and how exciting it was when it all began. “SMS” was the new “thing” back when I was in high school. I remember how we had to manually insert the messaging center number to activate the service. Little did we know of what was yet to come! The World Wide Web brought along the onset of sharing through social media and websites, which enhanced the ability for people to have an online presence. Suddenly, tremendous effort was put into “marketing” oneself through mirroring personalities on webpages, blogs, and the likes of Facebook, Twitter and more. As if that was not enough, mobile applications have made it even easier to have an interactive online presence on the go. There is no escape! Now, people all around the world can have access to an individual’s life (or what he/she chooses to share with the world) with the click or tap of a button.
Concurrently, during this period of social interaction’s evolution, the unfortunate events of 9/11 and the aftermath leading to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had tainted the reputation of Islam severely. This led to a wave of curiosity amongst non-Muslims whose easiest access to Muslims became social media or Muslims’ online presence. As a result, many used these online profiles or interaction with online Muslims as a means to learn about Islam and judge the religion along with what it calls for.
In this context, a new responsibility arises which is the responsibility of proper representation of Islam by Muslims from around the world; not only the representation of oneself, but also the representation of our respective nations and more importantly Islam. Personally, this situation was an ideal incentive to dive deeper into our beautiful religion and implement its teachings in my online social interaction. I started by tweeting specific excerpts from the scripture then to shedding light on current affairs from a religious perspective. I believe this responsibility is something we must all consciously think about and address seriously. In my opinion, proper representation is mandatory and obligatory on all Muslims and can be achieved by following a few simple steps.
First, understanding and recognizing that by exposing any of our thoughts, we are by default accountable for what messages we convey about ourselves, our nations, Muslims, and Islam specifically.
“All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock” – Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) – Sahih Al Bukhari
After understanding that representation is an obligation, the next logical step becomes leading by example. Special attention has to be given to good conduct. This includes kindness, honesty, loyalty, respect, and many more. By embracing good conduct, Muslims fulfill their religious obligation both vertically towards their creator and horizontally towards people of different faiths.
“Nothing will be heavier on the Day of Resurrection in the Scale of the believer than good manners. Allah hates one who utters foul or coarse language.” – Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) – Al-Tirmidhi
Not only does good conduct fulfill a religious obligation but also it is an essential prerequisite in the representation of and call to Islam which was practiced by all prophets and many of their disciples. In order to be characterized with such conduct it is essential to educate ourselves and be wary of others’ cultures, norms, family situations, religious affiliations, and general beliefs.
(Invite all to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious:…..) — The Holy Quran [16:125]
Finally, it is very important to clearly distinguish culture, personal opinions, and popular practices from what Islam really is. One way to do this is to promote what is in line with Islamic beliefs and to advise those who are against it. This may be a challenging task given that it requires a good understanding of Islam but allows for the ultimate association and hence representation.
(… Help ye one another in righteousness and piety, but help ye not one another in sin and rancor…)– The Holy Quran [5:2]
In summary, most people in today’s world are involved in some kind of online presence. With the unfortunate and sad events of 9/11, more and more people are seeking to learn more about Islam from Muslims they find online. What this implies is that there is a significant responsibility that Muslims bear towards correctly representing Islam. I believe this correct representation can only be achieved if we realize that we are accountable for how we are perceived, embrace good conduct and manners in our daily interactions, and distinguish clearly between Islam and Culture by promoting those items that are “good” and avoid those that are “wrong”.
I see this as a great incentive to open the doors to learning more about Islam. I hope you do too.
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.